Jalen Duren lists his basketball options. Will he choose Kentucky?

Now, one step closer to the final announcement of his basketball future, it looks like No.1 high school rookie Jalen Duren will reclassify in 2021 and, possibly, play college this coming season. .

And Kentucky remains one of the best contenders for his commitment.

Duren – a 6-foot-10 center from Philadelphia – revealed a list of his final five options Friday night. Those still in the mix: Kentucky, Memphis, Miami, the G League, and the Australia-based National Basketball League.

The UK concluded an official visit with Duren and his family on Wednesday, a trip that followed similar expeditions to Miami and Memphis earlier in the month. He is expected to earn over a million dollars for a season if he chooses to turn pro right out of high school. He is also expected to be one of the top contenders to be selected with the No.1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Duren has just completed a season in which he was named the first US All-Star and National Junior Team of the Year by MaxPreps.com after leading the Montverde (Florida) Academy to a national championship. He’s averaged 14.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game during this campaign, and he would be a game-changing addition for any basketball program – or professional league. – gets his engagement.

At the end of May, Rivals.com moved Duren to first place in the 2022 class. Earlier this week, 247Sports followed suit, pushing the star center past Emoni Bates, who had long been considered all basketball’s best prospect. -ball in high school, regardless of the class.

247Sports analyst Travis Branham, who is one of the voices of the recruiting service in the ranking debate, described the overthrow of Duren and Bates as “a very difficult decision,” and acknowledged that Bates – a small Michigan’s 6-9 fluid striker – probably went even higher as a professional player.

But there’s no denying what Duren has been able to do over the past year.

“Jalen just kept improving. He’s been dominant all season, ”Branham told the Herald-Leader. “The past 12 months could not have been better for Jalen from a development and production perspective. He was just exceptional.

“So how can we not reward Jalen for all he has done and accomplished?” He’s going to be a special player in the NBA. It is a very safe bet. Ultimately, they’ll both be great NBA players, but for now, Jalen has won the spot. “

As with Bates, it was long assumed that Duren – whenever he left high school – would skip college and go straight to the pros. This may no longer be the case.

“For now, I think he will go to college,” Branham said. “I think he will be one of those players who would probably be able to win – which he would earn with a salary – I think he will be able to win it, then his name, his image. and its likeness. So I think the college path is the way to go for him. Another chance he turned pro, but I would go for college.

And he could arrive on someone’s campus in a few weeks.

“I personally think he will finish in 2021,” Branham added.

Kentucky for Jalen Duren?

There are probably still a few weeks left before Duren is ready to reveal where he will play next.

So far, the five-star rookie has not even acknowledged that he is moving to the 2021 grade, taking the public position that no final decision has been made on the reclassification.

The plan is to play the rest of the summer with his team in the Tag Team Final, which will compete on the Nike Tour later this month, culminating in the Peach Jam Final on the final evaluation weekend of the recruitment scheduled for July 23-25.

After that, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a decision from Duren in a few weeks. If he does play college basketball this coming season, he would want to be on campus – and his next head coach would want him to join the program – as soon as possible.

Four years ago, Marvin Bagley followed a similar path. The No.1-ranked rookie played coy on reclassification throughout the summer before competing at Peach Jam and then announcing his commitment to Duke – and his move to the 2017 class – in mid-August.

As for a favorite in the recruiting of Duren, it is still a difficult race to handicap. No predictions from Crystal Ball have been made since reclassification talks intensified several weeks ago.

“I really don’t have a favorite right now,” Branham said. “I think the three teams he visited are all in a good position. … All three programs have their own selling points and they are all good points. They all bring something different to the table.

“So at the moment I am not in a position to assess a leader. And I’m not sure anyone else is. They keep it pretty discreet.

Miami, the first school to welcome Duren for a visit in June, recently hired DJ Irving as one of its assistant coaches. Irving was previously a coach at the former Duren High School in Philadelphia and worked with Team Final. Branham also noted that Miami is the school that has recruited Duren the most consistently over the past two or three years, even when it looked like he was likely heading straight for the pros.

Memphis, of course, has Penny Hardaway as a head coach, a former NBA star and college sensation who remains popular with young rookies and has already gone through the process Duren and his peers are currently navigating. Memphis is also expected to hire legendary coach Larry Brown – an NBA champion – as an assistant for the coming season.

Kentucky offers, arguably, the biggest brand in college basketball, to go along with the success Hall of Fame head coach John Calipari has had on the court, both in general and in particular with the best post players like Duren.

The name, image and likeness reforms just went into effect Thursday morning – so it will likely take some time for the possibilities to become clear there – but Kentucky basketball players are already positioning themselves for it. making a monetary profit while still in school, and the UK’s NIL field is expected to eclipse what would be available to someone like Duren in Memphis or Miami.

“Kentucky will be arguably the best in college basketball,” said Branham.

College coaches are limited in the details of what they can say and promise to rookies when it comes to NIL, but Calipari and his coaching staff are already selling leads on the big picture of what they can do to expand. their reach and branding potential in Kentucky, and that was sure to be a key part of pitching the program to Duren during his visit.

On the court, Duren would make the difference, the type of late addition that could push the Wildcats from behind the preseason Top 10 to a legitimate national title favorite.

And, unlike other highly ranked rookies of the past, Branham doesn’t see much of a learning curve for Duren, if he does play college ball.

“I think this kid is a star right away,” he said. “There’s really not a lot of worry with him, when it comes to taking his game to the next level. He has an absolutely bizarre body for a kid his age – 6-10, long, tall, athletic, and just built. And the thing with him is that he’s so built, but he’s barely started lifting weights. It’s kinda crazy. So physically, athletically, everything – he’s very ready.

“And then, from a skills point of view, his game will translate. It is very effective as a post marker. He is very effective as a rebounder, defender. The child is very intelligent. Instincts, everything – he’s ready to go.

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Ben Roberts covers basketball, football, horse racing and other sports in the UK for the Lexington Herald-Leader and has specialized in recruiting basketball in the UK for several years. He also maintains the Next Cats recruiting blog, which features the latest news on the Wildcats recruiting efforts.
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